Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Ready Player One

Ready Player One; science-fiction adventure, USA, 2018; D: Steven Spielberg, S: Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Lena Waithe, T.J. Miller, Mark Rylance, Simon Pegg, Philip Zhao 

In the future, people spend all their time playing VR first-person video games in the platform called OASIS, created by the late Halliday who promised ownership of the platform to anyone who can find three Easter eggs. Nobody had any luck, until teenager Wade Watts, using the avatar Parzival, drove backwards with his car and found the first key. He is persecuted by Nolan, the CEO of IOI who wants to take over OASIS. Teaming up with Samantha, Helen, Zhou and Toshiro, Wade is able to find the last key and take over OASIS, while Nolan is arrested by the police.  

“Ready Player One” is an example of modern “excessive cinema” in which the viewers are bombarded with hyper-CGI and scenes, almost as if the public is treated that they have ADHD, and it is only thanks to the skills of classic director Steven Spielberg that he is able to keep this from falling apart, by actually telling a more-or-less coherent story. As an unwritten rule goes, scenes of video games are not that cinematic, and since almost 3/4 of the film plays out in this VR format, it inevitably becomes exhausting and oversaturated. Spielberg was able to secure rights for numerous movies and TV shows, and thus the film abounds with over a hundred movie references (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “The Iron Giant”, “Back to the Future”, “Jurassic Park”...), while Spielberg again showed that he still has some sense for further innovation in the overwhelmingly genius metafilm sequence where the avatars of the characters find themselves inside the movie “The Shining”, with new scenes that almost seem as if they expand the said movie and give it new angles. The stakes of the story are unfortunately weak: two sides are competing for the ownership of the video game platform, but if the worst thing that would happen in case the “bad guy” Nolan wins is that there would be adds, then what’s all the fuss about? It simply is too trivial to root for the hero Wade as if he is saving the world. Too much techno-overkill, too little emotions, though Spielberg does give a neat secret message at the end in which the old Halliday admits that spending your entire existence on video games is a waste of a life when he says that only reality is real.   

Grade:++

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

The Entity

The Entity; psychological thriller / horror, USA, 1982, D: Sidney J. Furie, S: Barbara Hershey, Ron Silver, David Labiosa, Margaret Blye  

Carla is a normal woman living with her two little daughters and a teenage son after her husband died. One evening, something grabs Carla in her bed and puts a pillow on her face, so she leaves with her kids, fearing that a burglar attacked her. However, it is an invisible ghost, an entity that keeps harassing and violently attacking her in the house, even raping her in the bathroom. Carla seeks help from psychiatrist, but nobody believes her. Finally, two parapsychologists go to her house and take photos of a blue beam of light on the ceiling. They make a replica of her house in their laboratory and try to capture the ghost in liquid hydrogen. The ice breaks, though, and Carla hears the voice of the entity at her home, but continues living her life.  

One of the most disturbing movies of the 20th century, “The Entity” was briefly shown in cinemas during its premiere, but was so unsettling that it was later on rarely shown on TV, since many female viewers were simply too traumatized by its concept of a ghost rapist. Having a human villain is awful, but at least comprehensible; a monster as a villain is much more disturbing—but an invisible ghost that can strike anytime, anywhere, and one cannot know what it wants, that is intolerable. It is a meditation on the human fear of helplessness, done through the allegory of society ‘silencing the victim’ to suppress the uncomfortable truth: the heroine Carla (an effective Barbara Hershey) is a victim of rape of a higher power, but nobody believes her, or they tell her that it never happened. This phenomenon happens when some people are afraid of some higher power, and thus ignore or whitewash its crimes out of fear. Also worth noting is that at one point in the film it is mentioned that Carla was sexually abused as a child by her father, and thus the entity might be her father’s ghost, a symbolic stigma of the bad memories plaguing her. An alternative interpretation of the story could be the human fear of unexpected, sudden health problems—seizures, a stroke, a heart attack—from which there is no adequate cure. 

In one of the most frightening sequences, Carla goes to take a bath, when the entity attacks her, and puts the shower curtain over her head. In another one, her boyfriend shows up at her home and gives her a present, and he then goes to refresh himself in the bathroom, brushing his teeth and putting some mouth spray, but as he opens the door of the bedroom, he spots Carla lying naked on bed, screaming for help, while the invisible entity is squeezing her breasts, shown only as lumps on her chest. This even goes so far that the entity pushes the gas pedal while she was waiting in her car at a red traffic light. Unfortunately, the writing of the film is limited, since the dialogues are banal and routine, while the characters are one-dimensional (the psychiatrist, for instance, has only one feature: he doesn’t believe Carla no matter what; teenager Billy is just confused all the time); the one-note “heavy pounding truck” score is effective at first, but cannot carry the same old tune for all of the six attacks throughout the story, making it repetitive; whereas the open ending is unsatisfactory, though it did offer a fascinating little forerunner to “Ghostbusters”, since the parapsychologists try to capture the ghost. Not as scary as much as it is haunting, “The Entity” is a weird hard-core horror in its concept, yet still seems serviceable today.   

Grade:++

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Great Escape

The Great Escape; war drama, USA, 1963; D: John Sturges, S: Steve McQueen, James Garner, James Donald, John Leyton, Hannes Messemer, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasence, James Coburn, David McCallum

World War II. Stalag Luft III is a special POW camp in Upper Silesia run by the German forces, established to keep all the highly skilled escape artists at one place for maximum security, mostly British and American officers. Among them is Captain Hilts, who provokes the guards and lands in a solitary confinement on his first day. In the meantime, British officers Roger and Ramsey start a plan of digging three tunnels under their barracks, hoping to free all 250 inmates and send them into the nearby forest. When the German officers discover one of their tunnels, the inmates rush to complete the second tunnel. Even though the tunnel is 20 yards too short of the forest, 76 still manage to escape during the night, before the prison guards start a search party. Hendley leads the almost blind Blythe on a plane to try to fly to the Swiss territory, but they carsh. The German soldiers capture and shoot 50 of the escaped convicts. Hilts is returned back to the camp alive.

One of the most popular war movies of the 60s, excellent "The Great Escape" by the sometimes surprisingly versatile director John Sturges ("Bad Day at Black Rock", "The Magnificent Seven") is an unusually optimistic and upbeat story despite its nominally depressive topic of inmates trapped in a POW camp, a one which holds up even today. Kudos goes to the director's eye for details, since almost every little scene plays a role later on in the story, as well as a wide range of interesting characters, many of which have a great sense of humor: in one sequence, the inmates quickly hide the tunnel on the ground, while the digger Welinski (Charles Bronson) conveniently rushes to the shower, to clean away any signs of dirt on him—when the prison guard asks what they are doing, Welinski just goes: "Shower. I need a wash!", whereas Sedgwick, who is observing Welinski, says: "I'm watching him. I'm a lifeguard." Numerous ideas and solutions are innventive, such as when the inmates carry a rope from one side of the tunnel until its end, to measure how long it is, or when they have a problem of how to get rid of all the ground from the tunnel, since they put it on the table to compare it with the yellow ground of their compound, realizing that the tunnel dirt is much darker and is thus visible if they just throw it outside. All this is directed with a lot of passion, displaying the ingenuity of the inmates in order to find ways to escape. While the film's music theme is kind of naive and too cheerful, it is still highly memorable, nontheless. Among the flaws are the lack of an emotional engagement of the characters, whereas the film loses a lot of its energy in the last third when some inmates escape and roam the trains and cities, which is simply not that suspenseful nor inspired. Despite a tragic ending, it is almost as if Sturges sends a message that trying to achieve one's freedom or a dream of a better life is never a waste of time, regardless of the outcome, creating a movie monument to these people. 

Grade:+++

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Nobody's Fool

Nobody’s Fool; drama, USA, 1994, D: Robert Benton, S: Paul Newman, Dylan Walsh, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Jessica Tandy, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gene Saks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Margo Martindale  

Sully is a troublesome man in his 60s in a small town during winter, a tenent in a house run by the older Miss Beryl. He makes ends meet by accepting construction jobs for the wealthy Carl, and works with the always broke Rub. When Sully hitchhikes one day, he is picked up by his estranged son Peter, who has marital problems with his wife. Sully comforts his two grandkids, Peter’s kids, and gradually bonds with Peter. Sully also flirts with Carl’s estranged wife Toby, since Carl has a mistress. When Toby offers him to leave to Hawaii with her, Sully refuses, and instead stays and helps Peter reconcile with his wife. Sully then returns to the house of Miss Beryl, with Carl’s dog.  

Director Robert Benton’s 8th feature length film, “Nobody’s Fool” is a quiet, gentle, humorous ‘slice-of-life’ drama without a story, though with two surprising erotic moments that somehow break this dormant mood (the protagonist Sully talks with Toby in her office, and she mischievously lifts her sweater up to show her breasts for a split second before he leaves; Carl and his mistress playing strip poker, and losing literally everything they wear). While occasionally too lukewarm, overstretched and with not that much inspiration at every turn, the movie stand and falls with its main star who is featured in almost every scene, and since Paul Newman is simply excellent as the charming grouch Sully, “Nobody’s Fool” stands the test of time. One of the funniest sequences is after a police officer has been giving various fines to Sully, and this time blocks the route of his truck driving on the sidewalk with the police car, and aims his gun at Sully. But Sully just looks at Peter, sitting next to him in the truck, and says: “This is where a smart person would get out of the car...”, but then defiantly just continues to drive the truck towards the cop. Earlier in the film, Sully is not afraid to threaten his boss Carl: “You are going broke, but before you do, you will pay what you owe me!” This runs in the tradition of older people playing the cynical grumpy wise guy to get awards, with more of less justification in the narrative structure. However, while he is an excessive troublemaker, Sully also has a gentler side to him, for instance in the scene where he comforts his scared grandchild by telling him to “be brave only for one minute” at a time, and then gives him a stop watch to time that minute when he needs it. The episodes do not align into a storyline, but meander all around, leaving a rather loose structure behind, yet the film succeeds in its goal of a melancholic observation of small town people interacting with each other, revealing a theme that most people will grow old without doing much with their lives, just like Sully, but that they will find comfort in small moments of kindness and happiness with other people like them.  

Grade:++

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Shy People

Shy People; drama, USA, 1987, D: Andrei Konchalovsky, S: Jill Clayburgh, Barbara Hershey, Martha Plimpton, Don Swayze, Pruitt Taylor Vince, John Philbin, Mare Winningham, Merritt Buttick

New York reporter Diana Sullivan travels with her drug-addicted teenage daughter Grace to the swamps of Louisiana to write a story about the descendants of Joe, the late brother of her grandfather. Diana is shocked when she meets Joe’s widow Ruth, who married him when she was 12, and lives in a desolate shack, ruling over her grown up kids with an iron fist: she locked up Tommy in a cage for misbehaving; Mark catches fish and lives with his pregnant wife Candy; Paul is mentally disabled, whereas Mike left the place and works in a striptease bar in the local town. When Mark is attacked at night in his boat, Diana and Ruth travel to the city to report the incident to the Sheriff. In their absence, a bored Grace gives cocaine to Mark, who attempts to rape her, so she flees on a boat. Diana finds her and they leave, Diana a little bit stricter; and Ruth a little bit softer, while Mike returns to her shack.  

A rare Golan-Globus production outside the action genre, and one of the more misleading titles ever, swamp drama “Shy People” seems almost like a more grounded, dramatic version of Craven’s “The Hills Have Eyes”, exploring a yin and yang difference between two families, one civilized, the other backward and regressive. In this edition, the wealthy New Yorker Diana (Jill Clayburg) becomes a symbol for liberalism, and the Louisiana resident Ruth (excellence in acting by the brilliant Barbara Hershey) a symbol for autocracy, alas the stage is set for a culture clash between these two worldviews. These two women mirror themselves as some sort of antipodes (both lost their husbands; both have grown problem-kids), try to understand each other, and will eventually adopt certain traits from each other: the movie explores both positive and negative sides of their worldviews, since Ruth is too authoritative and allergic to any kind of change (she threatens the pregnant wife of Mark, Candy, that she is not allowed to leave the property; Tommy is even locked up in a cage for disobedience), but is strong (when a snake shows up under Diana’s legs during a boat ride, Ruth just takes it and throws it into the river), whereas Diana has class and an open mind, but is too lenient and permissive (her daughter Grace takes cocaine). “Shy People” is a peculiar and odd film, not that well written, but well made and acted. It may even have a political subtext, depicting Ruth’s swamp shack as a variation of a dictator isolating a derelict community from the rest of the world and proclaiming it as their “paradise”. However, the film relies too much on allegory and symbolism, instead of also developing an interesting story on its own right, or displaying a more versatile movie language. The characters of Mike and Paul are unnecessary. While flawed and meandering, this is a quality made drama that has a vision and a purpose behind its crazy decisions.   

Grade:++

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Hitman's Bodyguard

The Hitman’s Bodyguard; action comedy, USA, 2017, D: Patrick Hughes, S: Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson, Gary Oldman, Salma Hayek, Elodie Yung, Joaquim de Almeida, Richard E. Grant  

Bodyguard Michael is demoted following the assassination of a client he was supposed to protect, which also negatively affects his relationship with Amelia. The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) is holding a trial against Belarus dictator Dukhovich, but all the witnesses keep getting killed before they can testify. The last witness, assassin Darius, is thus released from jail, and Michael is assigned to protect him so that Darius can testify at the court. Dukhovich’s henchmen organize a huge attack on Michael and Darius across the Dutch cities, but Darius is able to arrive to The Hague and testify against Dukhovich, as well as meeting up again with his wife from prison, Sonia.  

This unusual action ‘buddy comedy’ works mostly due to the chemistry of its two lead actors, the charming Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson, as well as a couple of incredible action stunts. In one notable action highlight, playing out in Amsterdam, two cars chase each other, but then the one driven by Darius turns around, and drives in reverse along the canal, they go up an alley, until the two cars eject on a highway—but the second one, with the bad guys in it, is immediately hit by a truck. Even though it juggles with a topic of a dictator on trial in front of the International Criminal Court, “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” is a non-political and unambitious film, a simple comedy that does not take itself seriously and is instead just there for the anarchic fun of it all, and the director Patrick Hughes has a good sense of keeping the pieces of the disparate story together, even giving the viewers a treat in the form of exotic European locations. Its pace is a little too fast, though, almost frantic, to such an extent that one wishes it showed more confidence in its quiet parts, slowed down and just enjoyed some of its moments longer, instead of treating them as throw-away material that is just there to keep the viewers’ attention with flashy effects. It’s as if many of the scenes just don’t have a weight to them, except for being loud.   

Some of the dialogues are witty (“He is a coffin magnet”; “You know what they say: when life gives you shit... you make Kool-Aid!”), whereas Salma Hayek has a field day as the feisty Sonia, in the 2nd best sequence of the film, the stylish bar fight where she takes Darius’ beer bottle, drinks it, and then uses the empty bottle to smash the head of some criminal she was holding with her other arm. But the main prize for the no. 1 sequence of the entire film goes to a contagiously funny sequence that the viewers will find the better the more they rewind it. It plays out some 91 minutes into the film, and is filmed, intermittently, in two one-minute long takes, and features a waiter taking food from the stove, as the camera follows him glamorously exiting the kitchen to serve the guests of a restaurant, while this is contrasted with a reverse camera shot of Reynolds’ character Michael unglamorously rushing into the place to hide into the kitchen. Two assassins are right behind him, they smash open the door of the kitchen—but he is safely inches away from the swinging door, and then smashes them back shut, blocking one of the villains. This chase continues in a hardware store, where the lyrics of the cheerful song “Little queenie” by Chuck Berry are in a hilarious contrast with Michael trying to save his life by throwing various tools at the invincible assassin who just cannot be stopped, and thus at one point we have the lyrics going “...Looking like a model on the cover of a magazine...”, while the said assassin has a nail on his forehead, but just continues charging at Michael: comic pandemonium. Too bad the rest of the film never reaches a quarter of such sheer extraordinary fun of the said two sequences, but it is still good fun, nonetheless.  

Grade:++

Monday, May 24, 2021

The Ipcress File

The Ipcress File; thriller, UK, 1965, D: Sidney J. Furie, S: Michael Caine, Guy Doleman, Nigel Green, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson

London during the Cold War. 16 British scientists mysteriously terminated their careers, and when atomic physicist Professor Radcliffe is kidnapped, the British secret service, run by Ross and Dalby, bring agent Harry Palmer on the case. Palmer follows suspect named Grantby in a library, but the latter disappears. During a raid in a factory suspecting to be holding Radcliffe, the secret service finds an audiotape marked “Ipcress”. Grantby agrees to return Radcliffe for a large amount of cash, but once back, Radcliffe’s mind is damaged, and he cannot understand physics anymore. The “Ipcress” file disappears, and Palmer is kidnapped by Grantby’s men, working with Dalby, a double agent, who put him in a brainwashing container. In a warehouse, Dalby orders Palmer to shoot Gross, but Palmer is able to resist brainwashing and shoot Dalby, instead.  

“The Ipcress File”, the originator of the famous Cold War espionage film series, is a surprisingly fresh and suspenseful thriller, its hero Harry Palmer serving as an alternative and more grounded version of James Bond. The said main protagonist is played wonderfully by Michael Caine, here uncharacteristically wearing glasses for such a genre, and tries to unfold a giant web of intrigue, with agents and double agents. While the dialogues are standard and conventional, the director Sidney J. Furie tries to compensate this through a highly unusual visual style, consisting out of bewildering shot compositions and unusual camera angles, similarly to the film “Get Carter”, with such scenes as the waist of a man placed in front of the camera, covering almost 2/3 of the frame on the right, while the person speaking to him is almost microscopic, placed on the far left of the screen, standing far away from the camera. In another, outside a suspicious abandonded factory, the camera takes the POV of the driver of a police car, and after Palmer tells him to “lose that door, will you?”, the driver just backs up the vehicle for a couple of yards, and then drives with full force towards it, crashing through the door. Some of Palmer’s methods are quite clever: for instance, in order to track down Grantby, he goes to a special bureau and finds the latter has three parking tickets all received on the same location, with the car license plate going 417 FLU. Palmer then goes to the location, finds the car parked there, and just waits. Finally, a man puts some coins in the parking meter, so Palmer follows him to a library where Grantby is researching. The brainwashing container, where psychedelic lines are being projected over all four walls and on the ceiling to hypnotize a man inside, is expressionistic and unique. While some of the flaws are noticeable—for instance, the obfuscated double-agent-plot twists in the finale became so complicated that the viewers will have trouble deciphering who of Palmer’s officials is the bad guy— “The Ipcress File” has a rather robust structure. You expect a cheesy espionage flick, but get a much more ambitious, challenging and dedicated thriller.   

Grade:+++

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Army of Shadows

L’armée des ombres; war drama, France / Italy, 1969, D: Jean-Pierre Melville, S: Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Simone Signoret, Claude Mann 

World War II, France during the Nazi occupation. Resistance member Philippe Gerbier is arrested and sent to an internment camp, but manages to flee and hide in Marseille. His Resistance colleagues are Bison, Le Masque, Felix, Mathilde, and others. He travels to London to coordinate with the French government in exile, and then goes back to France. Felix is arrested by the Nazis and tortured in a prison, so Mathilde conjures up a plan in which she disguises herself as a nurse, equipped with an ambulance car, while Bison and Le Masque use forged papers to try to transport Felix away from prison, but the prison doctor rejects their request, declaring Felix too weak for transport. A Resistance member gives Felix a cyanide pill for suicide. Philippe is arrested, but manages to escape again. When Mathilde is arrested, and the Gestapo also knows she has a daughter whom they threaten to send to a brothel on the Eastern Front, the Resistance members agree to kill Mathilde by shooting her on the street.  

Included in Roger Ebert’s list of Great Movies, “Army of Shadows” is a typically ascetic, cold, clinical and minimalist film by director Jean-Pierre Melville, who hereby delivered a monument to the French Resistance members during the Nazi dictatorship, the former of which he was himself a part of, and thus the story is imbued with authenticity, avoiding any kind of glamour. Melville is a realist: he is sympathetic towards the Resistance movement, but also objective enough to show how a change will not happen during their lifetime. All the six main characters of the movement in the story die before the end of World War II, and are doomed to a transitory-interim existence before any results of their efforts will bear fruit. The happiness of peace awaits only the generation after them. Congruent to this pessimistic mood, even the cinematography is bleak and dark, full of shadows, revealing a sad underground in which these members hide while undercover, but the movie is boring at times, grey and overlong. 

Some of the tactics of the Resistance are not that impressive: in one sequence, Philippe arrives via train to a train station, but a whole row of Vichy officers are awaiting the passangers to inspect some of their luggage. Philippe thus spots a woman with two little kids and offers to help her by carrying one of the children, thereby “camouflaging” as a parent to walk pass the customs control. It is kind of a stretch that the Vichy officers would fail to inspect everyone, even parents, if they are suspecting Resistance members. One cool moment has Philippe rowing in a boat in the middle of the sea, until he reaches a British submarine, and then just exits from the boat onto the submarine. The best moment arrives when the Nazi soldiers are marching prisoners in a basement to a firing squad, when Melville untypically abandons realism and reveals Philippe’s narration, which includes this poetic line of thought: “It is impossible not to be afraid when you know you are going to die. I am just too stubborn, too much of an animal to believe it. But if I don't believe it to the end, to the very last split second, then I won't die.” The film is very good, yet it still lacks some true ingenuity or inspiration to be as great as the said sequence where the protagonist contemplates his mortality, life, fate and all the things between. 

Grade:+++

Monday, May 17, 2021

Loaded Weapon 1

Loaded Weapon I; parody, USA, 1993, D: Gene Quintano, S: Emilio Estevez, Samuel L. Jackson, Kathy Ireland, Tim Curry, William Shatner, Jon Lovitz, Frank McRae, Whoopi Goldberg, Denis Leary, F. Murray Abraham  

L. A. Sergeants Colt and Luger get a new case of investigating the murder of Billie York, who hid a secret microfilm that can disguise cocaine as ordinary cookies. Colt starts an affair with Miss Destiny, who knows the villain searching for the microfilm, General Mortars. After a lot of misadventures, Luger shoots Mortars in a warehouse and stops his drug smuggling operation.  

“Loaded Weapon 1” (despite its sly title, it never had a sequel) is one of those rare pure parody films from the 80s and 90s, spoofs so unabashedly ridiculous and over-the-top that they are almost tantamount to a live-action cartoon, but it once again proves that only the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker trio had the capacity to truly make that specific sub-genre reach a greater level. “Loaded Weapon 1” is a light, carefree, dumb comedy, yet it works only to a certain extent: some jokes succeed, others fail. And for a parody to work completely, their rate of success should be at least 80%, with some outstandingly funny moments. This film is bellow that line, with only moderately amusing jokes, but it is nonetheless fun watching Emilio Estevez and Samuel L. Jackson as a team that spoofs “Lethal Weapon”. In one good joke, their characters Colt and Luger are driving in their car, when all of a sudden one of them says that “they are being followed”—cut to the next scene of two criminals sitting in the back seat behind them, in the same car. Another good moment has the villain (William Shatner) enter the mansion of a guy (Denis Leary), and starts shooting—cut to a scene of even a man on TV covering his face and ducking for cover. When Luger asks a clerk about York, the clark asks for a photo of her, so Luger reaches for his jacket and takes out a T-shirt with York’s face on it, leading to an insane exchange (“Is that her?” - “No, that’s the photo”). Other jokes fare less: for instance, the “Silence of the Lambs” sequence doesn’t work. Just referencing a scene from a classic movie is not a joke on itself. Bruce Willis makes a cameo as a guy whose trailer was accidentally shot at by a helicopter, but this is also just bland. The beautiful Kathy Ireland is effervescent as Miss Destiny, and she has chemistry with Estevez. Overall, a good zany fun, yet the cinema world would later on move to more grounded comedies, anchored in reality.  

Grade:++

Friday, May 14, 2021

Fack ju Göhte

Fack ju Göhte; comedy, Germany, 2013, D: Bora Dağtekin, S: Elyas M’Barek, Karoline Herfurth, Jana Pallaske, Alwara Höfels, Jella Haase, Katja Riemann, Anna Lena Klenke, Max von der Groeben, Uschi Glas  

After serving 13 months in prison, Zeki Müller is released and immediately goes after the money stolen in a bank robbery, but is shocked that a Goethe high school was built on the land where he buried the cash. Müller thus forges a diploma and gets a job as a teacher in the said school, secretly excavating a tunnel under ground during the night. A young teacher, Lisi, blackmails Müller into taking over her class, 10B, the worst bunch of students in school, but Müller’s unusual methods get him a grip over the students. Müller finds the money, but Lisi orders him to leave school since he is associated with criminals. However, the principal hires Müller back as a teacher, since the class improved.  

In one sequence, the slob protagonist Müller, who improvises being a teacher, is attending a rehearsal of a school play of “Romeo & Juliet”, and interrupts it, complaining that the sets look “like one of those channels you immediately switch away from after you accidentally tuned in”; that he has only seen a “porn version of Romeo & Juliet”; that the dialogues sound like relics since “Shakespeare has been dead for 4,000 years or so”; and that the main actor should tell them in his own words, causing the guy to say: “Juliet, I want to shag you, show me your boobs!” Depending on each viewers’ taste, these kind of ‘crude jokes’ will either be amusing or just downright embarrassing, and this can be applied to the entire film “Fack ju Gohte”, whose inclination is relative. The film seems like an inversion of the classic German student comedy “Die Feuerzangenbowle”, spoofing the teacher-student relations, but just done worse and dumber. Nonetheless, it was a huge hit in German cinemas by selling over 7,000,000 tickets at the box office. It is a shallow, but easily accessible and simple fun, with enthusiastic actors, especially Karoline Herfurth as the shy teacher Lisi who has a secret crush on Müller, who in a way seems to self-educate himself, undergoing a character arc from a primitive brute to a more likeable, enlightened guy. In one of the funniest early moments, Müller is so lazy that he does not even bother to teach the teenagers in class, instead just giving them the assignment to watch movies on DVDs for homework, culminating in a hilarious essay by one of the students who imagined being the T-Rex from “Jurassic Park” (“The electric fence is off. I can finally go out and explore my freedom. This day has given me hope in my life!”). The writer and director Bora Dagtekin intends to double-down on crafting only a simple, ‘rough’ comedy for the masses, even deliberately dodging some potentials for more touching moments (such as when Müller pretends to be Lisi’s boyfriend to help her keep custody of her underaged sister), and some moments are tantamount to a cartoon: for instance, the students from the problematic class concoct such ridiculous pranks on Müller like a bucket pouring tar on him from nowhere, or an explosion of feathers inside his car. A clumsy populist comedy, but it has its moments.

Grade:++